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Bullet Train Boondoggle Breaks Ground

Wednesday January 14th, 2015   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 5:37am PST   •  

HiSpeedCATrain_200“The California High-Speed Rail Authority expects that millions among the traveling public will want to ride its sleek, 220-mph bullet trains between the Bay Area and the Los Angeles Basin when the system starts running in the early 2020s,” explains Tim Sheehan in the Fresno Bee. But when the project, launched with a 2008 bond measure, finally broke ground on January 6, no eager travelers showed up, and that was by design. The groundbreaking was “an invitation-only affair for about 1,200 dignitaries and guests,” including governor Jerry Brown, a day after he was sworn in for his, count ‘em, fourth term. This arrangement makes perfect sense, given the dynamics of the project.

As Sheehan noted, politicians peddled it as a fast new route from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles, California’s major population centers. But the groundbreaking took place in Fresno, not a major population center. That is a confession that the bullet train is more about spending money to shore up the fortunes of politicians than any attempt to provide modern transportation. That explains the “more than $3 billion in federal stimulus and transportation money” noted by Sheehan. The state rail authority must spend its federal money by September 30, 2017. The rail authority has some $6 billion, which amounts to only 20 percent of the $31 billion for the first operational segment between Merced and Burbank, and less than 10 percent of the $68 billion for the San Francisco to Los Angeles route. So much more spending is in store. As Sheehan also observes, rail bosses only own 101 of 525 pieces of property for the first segment, and still need 539 parcels for the second. As we noted, federal agencies such as the U.S. Surface Transportation Board are helping the cause by ruling that the bullet train trumps California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

This confirms that environmental concerns count for nothing when politicians want to spend money, particularly on a project like this. If built, the bullet train will provide slower service at higher cost than air travel. Not many Californians are panting for that. So it’s only right that no eager commuters attended the groundbreaking, only “dignitaries and guests.” This project is the ruling class playing with its train set.

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January 2015